Piers Morgan’s new memoir reflects on the CNN host’s American adventure
Author Chris Wright
It didn’t take long for Piers Morgan to make his mark on America. Late last year, less than two years after the former U.K. tabloid editor took over Larry King’s CNN talk show, a petition to deport “the toe-curling toady” garnered 100,000 signatures in the States. This was quickly joined by another much-signed petition circulating in Britain, this one to prevent his return.
“My best option at the time was Jamaica,” Morgan says. “Apparently I’m very popular there, and they offered me a home. I saw myself sitting on a beach sipping rum punches. It would have been great.”
This is classic Morgan: self-congratulation cloaked in self-effacement, the gleeful acknowledgment of his ability to rub people the wrong way. There’s plenty more of this in Shooting Straight: Guns, Gays, God and George Clooney (Oct. 15), the latest in a line of gossipy memoirs from Morgan, this one concerning the ups and downs of his American adventure.
“It’s about replacing a legend like Larry King, interviewing Oprah Winfrey and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, these huge figures,” he says. “Being there for these incredible news stories—the financial crisis, the Arab Spring.” And being a judge on “America’s Got Talent.” And dropping by the home of a “deeply, deeply sad” Mel Gibson.
No matter what he’s covering, Morgan has a tendency to place himself at the center of the story. On Margaret Thatcher’s death: “I first met her at a cocktail party….” On the Middle East conflict: “I’ve interviewed many senior figures on either side of this divide….” Meanwhile, the story in which he really did play a central role—the U.K. tabloid phone -hacking scandal—barely gets a mention.
Morgan’s remarkable ability to court controversy is the distinguishing aspect of his career. Be it Madonna, Tony Blair or the people he perceives to be on the wrong side of the Second Amendment debate, Morgan seems to spend half his professional life picking fights.
“I’ve never tried to play Mr. Likable,” he says. “In this business you have to be quite prickly, judgmental and opinionated. I wear it as a badge of honor.” A few moments later, Morgan describes himself as “my own harshest critic.” Which, frankly, isn’t entirely true.
“No,” Morgan says. “I suppose not.”
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Piers Morgan on…
Being interviewed: “I don’t like it. I know where all the pitfalls and traps are, because I lay them myself.”
Replacing Larry King: “There was shock and scorn and a lot of people wanting me to fall flat on my face. They were saying, ‘Who is this young upstart?’” (Morgan is 48.)
Stirring controversy: “When you edit a tabloid, by nature you’re a polarizing figure. I didn’t hide from that. It can make you more interesting.”
An Englishman challenging constitutional rights: “Just because you’re an outsider doesn’t mean you’re wrong.”
Being his own harshest critic: “I’ve always been the first to admit my mistakes, to say when I’ve been an idiot. That’s always been my saving grace.”
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